With sales sagging despite discounts, car makers are now looking at value-added services to attract customers.
In a first-of-its-kind initiative, Korean auto maker Hyundai Motor is launching an online portal for servicing cars. While Munich-based BMW has set up an in-house call centre for potential buyers, Japanese car maker Toyota Motor has brought in its financial services arm to offer hassle-free financing solutions to customers.
"More than 55 per cent of customers research online before purchasing a new vehicle. But there is no site currently offering comprehensive information related to servicing, maintenance and repair of vehicles post sales. We are launching a micro-site which would maintain a service history of registered Hyundai vehicles and make transparent expenses incurred for maintaining and servicing vehicles," said Arvind Saxena, director (sales and marketing), Hyundai Motor India Ltd.
The company, which would actively start promoting the portal in the next few days, has offered options to Hyundai owners to login via a unique user id, feed in vehicle details and receive service reminders at scheduled intervals. The user can access detailed information about service and labour costs specific to his own location and book servicing appointments on the site.
German car maker BMW has made operational an in-house call centre to provide seamless information services to all customers. Potential buyers can place requests on the number for test-driving BMW cars across the country.
Andreas Schaaf, president of BMW India, said: "India has adequate knowledge and infrastructure for call centre operations. We did not want to lose connect the customer by outsourcing operations. Our customers across the country would now be able to access all information through a single number. We, on our part, would be able to remain connected with those availing of our leasing services and keep them updated on expiry of the contract period."
The company, which started leasing services in February this year, has more than doubled investment in its financial services arm in India to Rs 530 crore this year in order to augment product and service offering. Leasing constitutes 30-40 per cent of sales for BMW globally. The company expects the venture to gain traction substantially over the next few years.
Toyota, too, has jumped on the bandwagon to provide attractive financial solutions to car buyers. With an initial investment of Rs 260 crore, Toyota Financial Services India (TFSI), a wholly owned subsidiary of Toyota Financial Services Corp, has commenced operations in Delhi and National Capital Region, and will gradually expand to other metros this financial year.
"We have put a lot of effort to ensure our customers have a quick and smooth process while purchasing a car, from an eight-hour loan approval process to offering 100 per cent financing and insurance funding ," said Kazuki Ogura, managing director and chief executive officer, TFSI.
Dedicated finance executives at Toyota dealerships will assist customers in availing personalised finance solutions through an easy documentation process. The service is expected to further push sales of Toyota cars in the country.
High interest rates and fuel prices have stymied car sales in the domestic industry. Passenger car sales grew by a meagre 2.78 per cent last month, compared with the 29 per cent increase in vehicles sales posted in 2010-11.